[Square & Compasses]

Letter of the month: June 2002

From: <SandyWalbridge@cs.com >
Message-ID: <ae.28a6167c.2a40a706@cs.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 11:08:54 EDT
Subject: What does your emblem represent?
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu

I just recently found my great-grandfather's tombstone. An emblem that I didn't recognize was carved in it at the top. My husband suggested that it might have been the emblem for the Freemasons. After some internet research, I found your web site and the emblem is the same as the Freemasons.

Can you tell me what the emblem represents?

Also, is there a way to find out more about my great-grandfather through the organization. He lived in a little town called Sawmills in North Carolina (near Hickory, NC); he was born in 1862 and died in 1935.

Thank you for your time!
Sandy Walbridge


from: <dryfoo@mit.EDU>
Message-Id: <200206182354.TAA03136@art-farmer.mit.edu>
To: SANDYWALBRIDGE@cs.com
Subject: Re: What does your emblem represent?
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Tue, 18 Jun 2002 11:08:54 EDT."
             <ae.28a6167c.2a40a706@cs.com> 
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 19:54:12 -0400

The emblem you are referring to is our "square and compasses"

The square is a builders square, two equal flat-edged metal or wooden arms joined at a perfect right angle (90 degrees), used to measure and confirm perfect square corners for drawings, carved stones, and buildings. The right angle is important in buildings, to make sure that stones, bricks, walls meet and rise at the correct angle, so they don't crowd each other, or lean improperly. To Masons, the square symbolizes virtue and honesty with one another, as in the saying "a square deal" which of course means an agreement that is fair to both sides. It also symbolizes the authority of the master of the workmen, against whose perfect square all the other measuring squares on the building site are checked for accuracy. In early days, the simple techniques for the geometric construction of a perfect square were secrets held by master builders, so the master (presiding officer) of a Mason's lodge still wears a square as his emblem.

The compasses are a pair of legs of equal length, fixed to each other at one end by an adjustable hinge. They are used for drawing circles, where one point of the compasses is the fixed center and the other swings around to trace the circumference. The compasses can also be used for taking or marking off distances along a line. To Masons, the compasses symbolize learning to draw a circle around our own desires and passions, learning to keep them from overrunning their proper bounds. Also, since compasses were one the classical tools in geometry (along with the simple straight-edge), compasses symbolize the science of geometry, which is the basis of all of architecture, and more generally is the symbol of mankind's ability to learn about the world around us.

That's a partial explanation, anyway. The longer a Mason thinks about the working tools of Masonry, the more and deeper meanings he comes to see in them.

Regarding questions about your ggrandfather, you would do best to contact the Grand Lodge of No. Carolina, and see if there are lodges in Sawmills or Hickory. If he was a member in that area, then one of the lodges there might still have records about him. Contacting the local lodge in an area is almost always the best place to start looking for Masonic info about a relative.


+---------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Gary L. Dryfoos <dryfoo@mit.edu>| PM: Ocean Lodge AF&AM, Saugus, MA
| P.O.Box 425400, Camb, MA 02142  | PM: Mt. Scopus Lodge AF&AM, Malden, MA
| http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/  | Richard C. Maclaurin Lodge, MIT, MA
| w: 617.253-0184 f: 617.258-6875 | Internet Lodge #9659, E. Lancs UGLE
|                                 | 32~; MPS; B'hood o/t Blue Forget-Me-Not
|                                 | R.W. Grand Rep. GL Russia near GL Mass.
| "...one sacred band, or society of Friends and Brothers, among
|  whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention,
|  or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."
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